How to get rid of fear and scary thoughts after watching a scary movie

Just a movie…

A lot of feedback from our unwanted thoughts post was from young people scared half to death from watching scary movies.

So here’s some specifics for that particular problem. This was the actual list I sent a young girl so scared she slept with a bible.

I’ve kept this post very short to get to the solutions straight away…

Know this:

  1. You’re not alone — most people freak out after watching scary movies, even adults.
  2. YOU ARE SAFE. You aren’t in any more danger now than you were before… it’s just a movie.
  3. You won’t feel scared for long. It will soon pass.
  4. Scary movies are made to scare you, that’s their job.
  5. Part of your mind can’t tell the difference between a movie and real life. It’s THIS part that freaks out, but YOU know… it’s just a movie. Because of this, it’s best to be careful what you feed your mind — what you watch, think and imagine!

Do this:

  1. Do some exercise: You are in a “fight or flight” state so act it out — dance or run about, jog on the spot, do star jumps, skip, have a pillow fight, do some shadow boxing or press ups… whatever.
  2. Watch “behind the scenes” videos to take the realness out of the movie, so you see clearly; “It’s just a movie.”
  3. Do what you can to feel safe: Be with people. Get lots of hugs from your parents, friends, even a pet or a big cuddly toy. Use a night-light.
  4. Keep your mind distracted: Watch comedy, get absorbed in a good book, listen to relaxing music, anything you can to distract your mind. Each time a thought comes up, remind yourself  “It’s just a movie” and distract.
  5. To help you sleep, play the famous lullaby tune by Brahms below. Relaxing soundtracks like waves crashing on the beach would also be very good. Then when it’s time to sleep, use this relaxation technique: Put all your attention into your feet, feel your feet tingling and relax them, then move through every part of your body doing the same thing until you fall asleep.

“I want to say that a while ago I saw this article, it was the night after I saw a scary movie. I haven’t really thought about it since like, 3 months ago! This really helps!”— Katie, USA



A  If you follow all the tips in the article as best you can, that’s the fastest way to get back to normal. It’s all there, everything you need to know and do. Please leave a comment below if you’re having trouble following the advice.

Q  Why am I sooooo scared just from watching a movie?

A  Your mind reacts instinctively to perceived danger and changes your physical and mental state in order to deal with the danger — the “fight or flight” state. We evolved in nature where danger was real, like lions, and your brain still works that way. More about this →

Q  Why am I hearing noises in my house after watching scary movies?

A  If your mind thinks “danger,” your body changes to a “fight or flight” state. One of these changes is that you notice sounds that you normally wouldn’t notice. Your house always makes these sounds but you normally filter them out.

Q  Why are my friends better at watching scary movies than I am?

A  We’re all different. If you were to measure fear reaction in you and all your friends, you would get what is called a “normal distribution.” Most people would be somewhere in the middle, a few would not be affected at all and a few would have an over-reaction. There’s lots of reasons why you react like you do… genetics, previous experiences, beliefs, sensitivity etc. Everyone is different.

Q  If my friends are watching a scary movie, I have to go along or I will be left out. What should I do?

A  Go along if you want to, but don’t get sucked into it. Keep moving your attention away and back, away and back… like… look at objects in the room, notice the objects in the background of the movie rather than on the action, look to see how your friends freak out at the really scary bits :-) And you can keep remembering “that’s just a guy wearing make-up,” “just back a bit is the camera crew and director.” All sort of tricks like this to “keep it real.”

If the music builds up and you know there’s a scare coming, close your eyes or hide behind a pillow! Lots of people do it and the rest will be too absorbed to see what you’re doing.

A few fluttery moments of thrill are what you want from a movie. Losing sleep over it means it wasn’t worth it.

You could take your own DVDs to sleepovers, and see if a great comedy can tempt people away from horror. If you know in advance it’s going to be a horror marathon, you could just skip the event. Your friends won’t ditch you over one blow-off, and you get to spend time with them you actually enjoy.

If you’re REALLY sensitive and know you can’t handle it, then just say “No thanks.”

Q  Why can’t I sleep after watching a scary movie?

A  As you settle down to sleep, there are no distractions for your mind, it’s just you and your thoughts. It seems as though you are looking at your thoughts through a big magnifying glass.

Whatever you fear, you will be reminded of — it’s just a primitive part of your mind protecting you against what you saw as danger. If you react with anxiety to your thoughts, your body makes adrenaline as part of the “fight or flight” reaction. This will keep you awake and stop you sleeping. Then a vicious cycle of more thinking, more anxiety and so on.

To prevent this happening, you need another focus and to stay relaxed. To do this, play the famous lullaby tune as soon as you get into bed. Put your attention on the music. This will give your mind something to focus on and the calming effect of the music will help you relax. When it’s time to sleep, use the relaxation technique (tip 5) to keep your mind off scary thoughts.

If you wake in the night, remember, “it’s just a movie, no real danger” and then immediately use the relaxation technique again until you go back to sleep.

Q  What about movies that are based on true stories?

A  Saying a movie is based on actual events is just a way to get you more scared. An unusual event is often used to make unquestioned false assumptions, distorted, and then built upon further to end up with a story that has zero truth in it. In short, you can safely assume that no scary movie is true. It’s just a silly movie.

Best wishes,
Michael Kinnaird

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Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.

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440 thoughts on “How to get rid of fear and scary thoughts after watching a scary movie

  1. Hahahahaha! Very interesting, Selma! I’ve told my sisters to do that a few times, like imagining that Freddie Kreuger was a clown. But then they remembered they were afraid of clowns and started freaking out again. Then I got scared because I was concerned for my sisters! Heheh.

  2. My sisters and I were watching an episode of Futurama, and the episode had an over-abundance of tentacles. My sisters were actually HURTING me with their hugs, until I was breathing enough to be able to tell them so. Then they simply hugged me tight, and I comforted them by reminding them it was something that could only happen in the future, where we won’t be. They were still crying after the episode was finished, and calmed down while watching a Super Mario Bros 3 cartoon episode.

  3. Aaron Rayner that’s hilarious! But what I did when I was scared was that I made a teddy and everyone in my family did a bit of the teddy. And when I got scared I just said my scary thoughts to it and hugged it. You don’t have to make one you can just nick one of your mum’s or dad’s t-shirts and sleep with that. I also go and phone my brother who lives in Sweden and talk then I feel really happy. ZZZZzzzzz

  4. i dont watch scary movies no more but i keep thinking about them and i have to go to school and i wake up early wat to do HELP ME? please tell mee

  5. I’ve seen several zombie movies in my life and loved them, I love the Left4Dead games, I love robots and machines of all kinds.
    I’ve seen this Japanese animated horror movie Gyo that was also related to the things that happened to me before (the way some people at school treated me) and I can’t get this movie out of my head for the past three months. I want to enjoy things I liked but this was too bizarre, and was, except for the body horror and the use of said parasitic alien machines, concentrating more around hate in the hearts of humans.
    I’ve seen War of the Worlds and it had similar concept, but didn’t stick around with me as this one. I went to a pro psychiatrist, since it made the things that happened to me in my past resurface, and it just makes me nauseous, I just want to get rid of the images in my head and associated thoughts.
    Because even with all that happened to me I could still enjoy things.
    I have friends who are unaffected by it and even read worse things, and I think I’ll stick to the previous zombie movies that I liked from now on.

    1. Hiya Joan, I would recommend you do two things. 1. No actively thinking about it — whatever comes up, simply notice, that’s all. 2. Stop caring. Have the attitude of indifference about it. If you do these two things with consistency, thoughts and feelings about this experience will die away.

  6. I guess Sinister wasn’t my type of movie. If u watched the movie already, then u can feel my pain. I’ve been trying to find hobbies, to try to get these thought out of my head. This movie has changed my life n now I’m officially done with scary movies. (Please give me some other techniques to get my mind of that crab I’ve watched). But wat really freaks me out is that my dad can stand the demonic stuff he watches, not only that, he has the nerve to laugh at most of the goriest scenes ever created by man. I tried to use this rare technique but I was just lying to myself. I knew I wasn’t ready for scary stuff in the movies. But I didn’t want seem like a scarty cat in front of my dad and friends. But the technique I’ve been using is training how to purposely and completely shutdown my brain so no thoughts can roam free around my head. (Please tell me if this a good technique to use) Thank you and appreciate the wisdom!!

    1. Hi Mike, yes that’s definitely a good technique to use. It’s extremely empowering to be have a still mind. This allows you to accept or reject thoughts that pop up. Mike’s “unwanted thoughts” article explains more…

      Be consistent with the tips in this article Mike, they will help. Keep ignoring thoughts and feelings about the movie. If you’d like to understand more about WHY you keep having thoughts and feelings about the movie, please see the following article. It will help you see why “ignore” is ultimately all you need…

      Don’t worry about how other people (like your dad) react to things. It’s how it affects YOU that matters. Don’t watch horror movies and this won’t be a problem for you.

  7. Sir, Aaron was talking to you before about me and Natachea. Recently, he bought Devil May Cry HD Collection, a PS3 remake of the first three Devil May Cry games. He has only played the first one, but already I’m creeped out. Puppets that attack you when you take keys… masked grim reapers carrying large scissors and boomerang-styled scythes… a lava scorpion demon thing… Aah…

      1. James, I love watching my brother play videogames. In fact, I love him in general. Almost anything about him, anything he says or does, excites me so much. I have no idea how to explain it… there is no rivalry in THIS family. :D

  8. Thank You sooooo much for that guide! I used to be soo afraid of bloddy mary and stuff like that now im practiclly over it! You definatly know your stuff! Thanks again you really made someones life better by pointing out that it isn’t real! :D

  9. I’m afraid of anything I see that’s creepy, like ghostly pictures or just unsettling pictures in general. I’ve tried to ignore it and pretend it’s not there but I always think of the picture. The only time I’ve been able to beat it is by staring at the picture for a while and I don’t want to do that again. I need help.

    1. Hi Katherine, follow all the tips, it’s the best way. Also, be sure that your lifestyle is supporting the best physical, mental and spiritual health possible… everything affects everything else.

  10. Hi I’m Anique, thanks that you helped to get over my fear of haunted porcelain dolls. I couldn’t sleep thinking of them.

  11. I just saw a video that practilly RUINED one of my favorite games, I never wanna see the “hero’s” face again! Even with these tips it’ll take forever to get it out of my head. I need kitten and puppy photos, NOW!

    1. Hi Grace, when the thought pops, try to be completely non-reactive to it. This communicates to your brain: “This is unimportant”. As a result, it’ll pop up less, and pass quicker.

      1. Actually, its not exactly out of my head, but when I think of the scary or gory parts, I don’t freak out as bad. Yay!

  12. My friends convinced me to watch my very first horror movie, The Babadook. If you’ve ever watched it, I hope you understand why it’s unsettling. I can’t shake it from my mind no matter how hard I try. I’ve tried distracting myself but it doesn’t work for long. It’s making me really nervous all the time, and I try to tell myself it’s just a movie and to be calm but my mind won’t listen. How will I be able to sleep tonight? I’ve tried music and comedic videos but nothing seems to help. Please help! I think it may be because I have severe anxiety, so my sensitivity to horror or scary things is very high, but now I can’t sleep and I’m always scared. Please help.

    1. Hi Elizabeth. Hold on to the thought that no matter how you feel, you’re *not* in danger — it’s just the primitive fear mechanism in your mind. Persist with the music or comedy videos, really rivet your attention on them — immerse yourself in that world completely. In the short term, anxiety and fear causes a lot of adrenaline to be released, so go for a run or jump up and down. Burn off all that excess energy that’s putting you in a heightened state. Remember, these movies are *designed* to scare you. I don’t watch horror movies because I like being happy and not freaked out. If you already have severe anxiety, you definitely don’t want to be watching them either. In future, when you friends suggest watching horror, tell them “no chance”. Be confident and if they still tease you about it, just shrug it off — “whatever”.

  13. Hi. . .My name is Claudia and I am scared to death each night.i don’t even know why but I think I do now:a few nights ago in the weekend I went to my best friends house for a sleepover, I told her about a recent horror movie I saw called the conjuring 👻, at first I thought that I wouldn’t get any nightmares and I didn’t so we decided to watch a horror movie and it was cool and we liked it.and we said that after the horror movie we would watch a few funny and happy movies to drain out the fear of the movie. Then we went to slee. . .in the morning we decided to watch another horror movie called dead silence I thought I would be okay even tho she told me that everyone dies at the end😭😭😭😲😲😲😲 and after we didn’t watch any good movies (which was bad luck) cause my mum came to get me 😭😭 I was shaking, I felt like spouwing up and was freaked out, mum eventually asked me If I was okay and I told her that I was scared then she told me to stop being silly. A few days after that FREAKING movie came to my mind and it scared me alot (because it the conjuring said it was BASED on a true story) and that night I went to bed at 8:00 cause I was very tired and me and ma bestie stayed up till 3:00 in the morning 😣😣so I said good night to mum and went to my bedroom.i read my book for 4 whole hours and tried to get to bed again. . . But I couldn’t cope with being by my self and my brother was awake so I randomly asked if I could sleep with him and he got angry with me and told me to go back to my own bed. . . Soo I went and told mum that I felt sick and I Really did😷😷and she told me to get a sick bole and stay out here for a few minutes soo I did. I started to cry and mum told me to go into her bed and I did got to sleep after that but I awoke with a strange sound and thin I relised it was my cat scraping the door then went back to sleep then woke up in the morning then got ready for school I cried at school cause I was soooooooo scared again. I had a talk with my math teacher and told me I was going to be okay and told me story soo hopefully I get to sleep to nite and do u have any tips for me?

    1. Hi Claudia, don’t worry, the feeling will fade away. Just remember, the movie is designed to scare adults, so they make these things as full on as possible — you’re not in any actual danger. It’s just a bunch of guys dressed up, wearing make up, or visual effects using a computer. Use all the tips above to help get back to normal. People really love the lullaby tune because it helps change your state from fear to relaxed. They often say it’s based on a true story to make it scarier. Often something unusual happens and then a story gets built up from there. It certainly doesn’t mean it actually happened.

      1. Thanks for the great reply , but how can I use the
        Laloby because I’m not allowed any electronic devices before I go to bed and if I try to sneek into bringing my phone or tablet with me my parents will get mad with me and I never get told off

      2. If you explain to your parents that it’s just while you’re getting over the scary movie, they might agree to it. If not, just use the other tips instead. Reading a book is a good one because it distracts your mind. You’re thinking about what’s happening in the book instead of anything else. You could also think about your family, friends, pets, things you love to do.

  14. OMGGGGG! I just sent my friend a bunch of scary spider pics as a joke, but now im terrified before bed!!! What do i do? and just to be ironic even more, i have a huge phobia of spiders…shoulda thought twice before sending spider pictures before bed……

    1. Hi “Someone”, the tips are for watching a horror movie but they apply to anything that provokes a fear reaction. It could be a movie, a book, a picture, even just an idea. Follow the tips to return your state back to normal and calm. Fear is a strong reaction so it can take a while to pass. Have a “don’t care” attitude towards any related thoughts and emotions that pop up. This communicates to your mind that the “danger” has passed. I put “danger” in quotes because of course the danger was never real.

  15. It’s been a couple of days since I watched a scary movie(Annabelle and The conjering) I’m having restless nights since I don’t know how to get it out of my head I just want to go back to the I used to.

  16. I watched the conjering a couple of nights ago and I have had restless nights since I told myself over and over its not real but it’s not working I tried staying up late and I could not sleep I asked my brother to sleep with me and he did but I thought there was something at the end of my bed I just want to go to bed the way I used to I’m sooooo scared I live in two houses and I get used to one house then I go to the next house and I’m freaked out of my skin please help me I want it to go away soon and I tried either going on my phone or reading a book and I’m still scared and I was at my friends and we watch the conjering at night and we watched hot pursuit after then later the next day we watched a little bit of annabelle and we didn’t watch and any nice movies I tried to think about good thinks and it keeps on coming back

    1. Larah, you shouldn’t watch horror movies at all. They’re designed to scare adults, let alone children or teenagers. That’s why they are R rated. Remember, you are in no more danger than you were before the movie, it’s just a silly movie. None of it is real. Don’t worry, it will fade away in time. Just ignore the fear and the thoughts as best you can by keeping your mind on something else. Play the lullaby tune in the article. It’s very soothing and relaxing. Please read through the whole article above and use all the tips. This will get you back to normal as quickly as possible. If you feel pressure from your friends to watch horror movies, there is a section in the article for dealing with that. Remember, everything is ok. They’re just stupid, made up movies that are made to look real. But they’re absolutely not.

  17. I watched a sifi movie about how the world will be like in a few years. And now I’m scared about it every time I rest on my pillow I just start thinking about clips of the movie.

    1. Hi Isabella, stick to the advice in the article above as well as you can. It’s all good advice and is the best way to get back to feeling calm and safe. And don’t forget, it’s just a movie — nothing has actually changed :-)

  18. Hello. Two months ago during a damp hot summer night i had a very terrifying nightmare (and i was not totally asleep because i can recall that i thought it was not a dream or nightmare but all true, yet it actually was a dream i guess. I am not sure yet) it was about the ghosts and satan and the screaming from them like “you say you are not with the temple anymore” or something like that. Believe me i can’t recall or even make sure what was that. I was terrified. So i began to sweat and freak out hard. It was 2 2 or 3 am and the worst thing was soon after that two cockroaches (which are quite normal to wander around during summer nights) fell right over me in bed from the ceiling. I am 35 and i had never ever such an accident in bed. I turned on the light and killed them with papers. Since that night i am SO SCARED that all my mind is just occupied by the thought. I am just wondering why did such a thing happen? I am just a nice woman with God in my thought. All my family members love God so do I. We just love God and the only God who is the creator. The creator of beauty (although the world is not beautiful. However that is due to our own mistakes i believe). So this thought i can’t get rid of. It’s so terrifying that all my breast and neck fore and back is hurting and it gets worse wheni surf the youtube for some fun and good movies yet suddenly my eyes catch the videos which are being advertised for such scary movies about ghosts and satan…. Recently i have had guilt pains as well. I can’t make sure what i do is right or wrong. I try to avoid lies and cheating yet sometimes you can’t make sure if during a dispute you are rigt or wrong. I sued a dentist lately who carried out an orthodontic maltreatment on my teeeth it was also partly my fault. I sued him and i am afraid what should i do if the court punishes him while it was partly my fault too. I told the court all all all the truth though. Please pray that i will forget this thought. I pray that all of people who are doing good and have God’s path as their light (telling the truth and avoidance from cheating) will be fine. Amen

      1. dear James Thank you so much. I read the article. it gets even worse when some youtube channels show some horrific videos of real stories with that horror content. I will try to avoid looking at the titles. ok? thank you again. do you think I will be fine again? I will try my best. also recently I have suffered from lots of stress. I am worried about my dear family members and the child I will one day have after I will marry one day. I will need to try hard to keep such stressful thoughts away

      2. You’re very welcome. Yes, you will be fine Sarah. Decide to consistently ignore/not care about everything to do with this subject. This is what will communicate to your subconscious that the “danger” (even though there never actually was any) has passed. Incidentally, living in the past or the future isn’t generally conducive to happiness. Living in the moment — this moment– is :-) In your case I recommend reading the Happy Guide book. It only takes about an hour and will tell you how to setup your life so that you’re happy, healthy, relaxed and “in the moment.” It’s the best thing you can ever do for yourself :-)

        Best wishes,

  19. I can’t take horror movies so I’ve never seen one, but a single picture of the fugly scary nun from Conjuring 2 popping up on my Twitter timeline was enough to traumatize me. I was a jumpy, terrified mess for weeks after the incident. The thing that helped me was watching a funny scare prank video where someone dressed as the nun jumped out at people and a guy got so scared that he threw his water bottle at the nun, hitting her square in the face. I laughed and I remembered this video every time the actual nun that scared me came to mind.

  20. help i read scary comic about nandi bear pls don’t eat my brain i don’t want go to kenya now i can’t sleep ahh kerit is very scary

    1. Hi Liling, just follow the tips in the article, it’s the quickest way to get back to feeling normal. It doesn’t matter if it’s a scary movie or a comic, it’s basically the same advice. And remember, you’re not actually in danger — it’s just a silly comic. :-)

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